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June 22, 2005


NEW YORK, June 22, 2005 – A highly memorable anti-drug commercial used fried eggs to depict “your brain on drugs.” Researchers at The City College of New York plan to use a new, five-year, $2.2 million grant to study the brain’s biochemistry to learn how prenatal exposure to cocaine and other illegal stimulants causes its damage.

The funding comes from the NIH/National Institute of Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Minority Institution Drug Abuse Research Development Program (MIDARP), which provides monies to develop the capacity of minority institutions and their faculty, staff and students to conduct rigorous drug abuse research.

In addition to supporting research projects, the funds will be used to create interdisciplinary courses and seminars on topics related to drug abuse and to establish an infrastructure for supporting ongoing drug abuse research at The City College. Dr. Eitan Friedman, Medical Professor and Chair of the Physiology and Pharmacology Department of the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at CCNY, will oversee the program.

“The MIDARP program will be a major force in fostering drug abuse research at CCNY,” said Dr. Friedman. “The support from MIDARP will provide the infrastructure support needed to mount a research and training effort in this area and help us mount a systematic effort to attract and interest minority students to a research career in drug abuse.”

Previous research conducted by Dr. Friedman and his colleagues has found a linkage between in utero (pre-natal) exposure to stimulants and adult learning and attention deficits in animal subjects. The research to be funded under the new grant is intended to understand the underlying biochemical changes.

“If we understand the mechanisms, we can devise interventions that could circumvent occurrences of these behaviors and the morphological problems associated with them and possibly treat these occurrences,” he explained.

Dr. Friedman and the two principal investigators, Dr. Hoau-Yan Wang, Associate Medical Professor, and Dr. Xuechu Zhen, will explore several theories to explain how exposure to stimulants affects the physiology of the brain. Among the areas to be studied are:

  • Whether mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascades lead to structural aberrations in cortical neurons.
  • The timing for and areas of the brain involved in development of the central nervous system affected by cocaine-related reduction in glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK3β) activity.
  • The detail signaling mechanism underlying the D1 dopamine receptor dysfunction associated with the cocaine-altered GSK3β / protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) pathway.
  • The possible role of GSK3β activity and its altered downstream molecule, β-catenin in abnormal neuronal development in the cingulated cortex.
  • Whether disassociation of Src family kinases from N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) channels in cocaine-sensitive brain areas leads to altered NMDAR composition and dysfunctional excitatory neurotransmission, and whether these confer an altered dendritic development/connection and impaired cognition and learning/memory processes.

Although the program was established and will be led by faculty from the Sophie Davis School, an affiliated unit of the City University of New York that offers a joint B.S./M.D. degree, participation will be open to all students from all CCNY schools. Dr. Friedman noted that the courses would be the first taught by Sophie Davis faculty to other students at CCNY.